TCL’s Top Ten (or more) Favorite Books of 2021.

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2021- the Year of 4.75 stars!

This past year has seen me read more books than ever. I’m guessing that’s because of several reasons. The pandemic meant more time at home, and that, combined with my now being retired for over a year, meant more time for reading overall. There are other reasons I read more books this year, but… they’re a touch too personal to share here (just yet). Mind you, I DNF four books this past year. But there were also a whole lot of surprises along the way.

Included in those surprises is that this year I told Goodreads that I would read 64 books (since I turned 64 this past year)! In fact, I read 74 of books, which included two books for the Women in Translation challenge, a full 20 books for the 20 Books of Summer challenge, two Big Books of Summer, five novellas for #NovNov, 39 Historical Fiction books, and 51 New Releases. I’m pretty proud of all of this. But more than that, I found an inordinate number of books that were really, Really, REALLY good, but for one reason or another, I couldn’t give them a full 5/5 stars. For them, I started giving out 4.75/5 star ratings (but they got .

So, without any further ado…

10 – Yes, I know, I said I wouldn’t put up ties anymore, but technically, I said that about the first place books. So, I think I can allow myself to put here a few of my favorites that came thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis close to 5/5 stars here in the 10th place spot (my blog, my rules, right?).

  • Ever Rest” by Roz Morris. This got me through a very difficult time, so I had to give it a mention here. I knew Morris was a wonderful writer, but except for her travel diary book, she writes novels in genres I don’t read – until now!
  • Oh William!” by Elizabeth Strout. I really enjoyed this third Lucy Barton book, as I did the other two. I don’t think I need to say more except that I still love Lucy!
  • The Personal Librarian” by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray. This fascinating story has been on the top of many lists, and I was very moved by this fictionalization of a real-life woman who succeeded in hiding her secret.

9 – “The Social Graces” by Renée Rosen. I wasn’t expecting to love this one as much as I did, because sometimes, the problems of wealthy people can be annoying. But Rosen really did an excellent job of making these women sympathetic. That might not have been enough to get it 5/5 stars, but her Greek-like “society chorus” was what pushed it into one of my top spots.

8 – “The Children’s Blizzard” by Melanie Benjamin. This is one of those books where you will need a box of tissues to read (and you know that any book that can make me cry will get top marks from me).

7 – “Swimming Back to Trout River” by Linda Rui Feng. When it comes to a debut novel, you don’t usually expect to be blown away by not only the writing style, but also such a well constructed story and plot. If you haven’t read this, get yourself a copy, PLEASE!

6 – “Yours Cheerfully” by AJ Pearce. Now that I’ve read the first book in this series by Pearce, I’m now totally hooked on the Emmeline Lake Chronicles, and I’ll be first in line to read any further installments (and you know, I don’t really do series). Now, if only she’d do a Countdown Questions for me…

5 – “A Bright Young Thing” by Brianne Moore. I had so much fun with this story, and I enjoyed Moore’s writing so much, I asked her to do a Countdown Questions for me, and she gracefully agreed. Now I have to get my hands on her debut novel (culinary fiction – cool)!

4 – “The Rose Code” by Kate Quinn. I’ve been a fan of Quinn’s writing since I read her first WWII novel – The Alice Network. Although this book equals in length with Doerr’s “Cloud Cuckoo Land” at about 650 pages, I read this at a clip much faster than I expected, mostly because I was so engrossed by the story. (I really hope I can get approval for the ARC for her upcoming novel.)

3 – “A Narrow Door” by Joanne Harris. This is the last (or should that be latest) installment of the Malbry series of novels by Harris. I got hooked on these by accident when I read the first one, and now I find them irresistible. Again, I’m not one to read series, and I’m not really a huge fan of psychological thrillers, but Harris just has that… je ne sais quoi about her writing that draws you in, completely!

2 – “Antiquities” by Cynthia Ozick. This story, as Ozick calls it (not even a novella), is a surprise and delight from start to finish, as it uses the mechanic of being a fictional memoir by a man wrought with memories of a painful yet significant event from his past. When I read this, it went straight to the top of this list, and stayed there… until I read the one below!

And…[drum-roll, please]

My absolute FAVORITE BOOK of 2021 is:

1A Single Rose” by Muriel Barbery (translated by Alison Anderson). It has been a very long time since I read a book that was so beautifully written that it literally took my breath away, but this one surely did (yes, I do mean literally, because I actually gasped while reading parts of this book). After reading this, I really want to visit Japan and see some of these gardens and temples that were so lovingly described here. Sure that doesn’t sound like such a huge endorsement, but it is, when it is coming from me; before I read this book, I wasn’t really interested in visiting any Asian countries.

A Single Rose

Honorable Mentions:

Fiction: Address Unknown” by Kathrine Kressmann Taylor. This book was originally published in 1938, and I read the most recent re-release this year, so technically, it isn’t a 2021 novel.

The Charmed Wife” by Olga Grushin. This is one of those “apples to oranges” types of things. This novel is SO unique, with its mixture of fantasy and reality, that to compare it to other books is unfair to both it and them!

Trio” by William Boyd. The only reason why it didn’t get into the top 10 is because it was released in the UK in 2020, but only got into the US and Canadian markets in 2021.

Non-Fiction: Conversations with My Body: Essays on My Life as a Jewish Woman” by Elana Sztokman. Okay, so even if it is the only non-fiction book I read this year, it still deserves to be on this list. It is not only beautifully written, but it is also important!

Conversations with My Body

What were your favorite reads among the books you read that were published in 2021?

41 thoughts on “TCL’s Top Ten (or more) Favorite Books of 2021.

  1. PS We’ve been to Japan 4 times and will go again. I haven’t visited much else in the way of Asia – a few days in Hong Kong, a few days in Singapore, a few days in a Thai resort for my SIL’s 40th wedding anniversary. All interesting, but, Japan … so fascinating, and so easy to travel in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, I was in Hong Kong twice, but as short layovers going to and from Australia. Frankly, I totally hated the place. I have an old school friend living in Singapore, so I wouldn’t mind visiting there, but really – only Japan interests me now. However, with all this virus crap, I’m not making any travel plans (except hoping that I’ll get to go to Ireland in July for a writers’ retreat)!

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  2. I have not read any of these books – or authors, actually – though I feel guilty about Strout and Ozick in particular, and want to rectify that. I did have Barberry’s Hedgehog book but could never quite get into it, which I think was more my fault the couple of times I tried.

    I have read some Trevor (in your highly commendeds)

    Oh and I wish I had read more books in 2021. I should have but with my parents’ deaths in mid 2020 and early 2021, and the pandemic, I was just too distracted to make good use of my time. I really hope thins improve this year. You have seen my Reading Highlights post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry to hear about your parents. Both 2020 and 2021 were pretty difficult for me as well personally. But unlike you, I used reading to distract myself from those things, instead of being too distracted to read. We’re all different, and let’s hope that 2022 will be better for us all!

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      1. Lucky you, I mean reading helping distract you, not having difficulties too! Normally it would me too but I think I let myself become too responsible for the review copies in my pile which weren’t necessarily what I wanted to read, so I’d struggle on with them (all perfectly fine books just not what I needed) rather than lose myself in my choices. I think I’ve learnt my lesson!

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      2. Good for you. Strangely enough, when the biggest tragedy happened last year, I was reading this one book that I thought I should set aside (too close, too soon), but then… it started working as a type of catharsis for me… helping me work through the pain. So with that, yes, I think I was very lucky.

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      3. I understand that … I don’t get triggered by books close to what I’m dealing with. In fact I tend to seek them. It’s other books that were, hmm, earnest but unrelated that were more the problem.

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  3. Such a good list and I love your description of why your top pick was #1. I have such a difficult time choosing a favorite and this year no one book stood out from the others.

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  4. I’m pleased to see The Rose Code on your list, as it’s on mine too! I’m hoping to read Yours Cheerfully in 2022 and I also love the sound of The Children’s Blizzard. Happy New Year!

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  5. Davida, among my favorites of the novels I read in 2021 are the following: Even As We Breathe, by Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle; The Four Winds, by Kristin Hannah; Yellow Wife, by Sadeqa Johnson; The Good Sister, by Sally Hepworth; and The Girls in the Stilt House, by Kelly Mustian. I must mention a nonfiction book I haven’t finished reading yet: The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, by Peter Frankopan. All of these weren’t published in 2021, but that’s when I read them.

    I enjoyed seeing your Top Ten list.

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  6. You’ve persuaded me to put Swimming Back to Trout River on my wish list. I’m also tempted by The Children’s Blizzard. I had to smile when I saw your comment that it was retirement that helped increase your reading. I had imagined that would be the case when I retired too but in five years that hasn’t happened. Always too many other things to do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great list of books! I’m intrigued by “Antiquities” and “A Single Rose” now. I agree with you on “The Rose Code”—good book and flew by despite its length! I also loved “Yours Cheerfully” and “Address Unknown.” As for my absolute favorite book I read this year… it was an advanced copy coming out in February called “Love & Saffron” by Kim Fay about correspondence between two women in the 1960s….one in the Seattle area, the other in L.A. I LOVED this book!!!❤️❤️❤️

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      1. Ah, well, I only put books on this list that were published during this calendar year, so… your favorite wouldn’t get on my list. That one sounds interesting, though. By the way, I just finished reading and writing a review of a novel that will be published on Jan 5, and that is already on my “best of 2022” list – OMG!!!

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  7. An amazing reading year Davida! I give sooo many 4.5 stars! I’m getting too picky I guess! Often what puts it over into the 5 star category is the emotional response I have to the story. I wish goodreads would give us those half stars!

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